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since June 19, 2001

Table of Contents for Eeva Sodhi's Web pages at Fathers for Life
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Fatherhood — A letter by Eeva Sodhi to DHHS

From: R&E Sodhi
To: hhsmail@os.dhhs.gov
Sent: June 18, 2001 12:16 PM
Subject: Fatherhood

Re: The President's Fatherhood Message: "As a society, we must support fathers in fulfilling their responsibilities to their families" .

It is encouraging that there is a new found interest in fatherhood. However, unless the real causes for fatherlessness are weeded out, there can be little hope of any progress in the efforts to introduce fathers back to their families. The current efforts are nothing more than an attempt to repair a compound fracture with a tiny Band-aid. And we wonder why the breach does not heal.

The first step on the road to recovery is to erase the word "responsible" from the fatherhood programs. Most fathers ARE responsible, provided they are allowed to be.

In every family, mothers set the tone between fathers and their children: "Just wait till your daddy gets home". That tone can be positive or negative, but it is the mother's voice, have no doubt about it. They are, and have always been, the gatekeepers. Thus, they are the ones who hold the keys. What is urgently needed is to focus our attention to "responsible motherhood".

Unfortunately, fathers have too many hurdles to cross, and mothers have had too many hurdles removed. It is only when fathers themselves are studied that we will begin to understand the scope of the problem of fatherlessness. Asking mothers how they perceive the role of the fathers of their children is an exercise in futility.

All the current fatherhood programs are geared to making fathers into walking wallets. We hear that it is in the best interests of the children to keep the custodial parent, who usually is the mother, happy. That the children may be happy to have their fathers present while the mothers are happiest with a signed cheque from a father who is kept away somehow seems to contradict the "happy mother-happy children" hypothesis. We equate step-fathers, "big sisters", "big brothers" and other "male stimuli" with natural fathers. It is not uncommon to hear that they are better role models to the children. If we want to be honest, the popularity of these outsiders could be explained that these "role models" do not challenge the mother's decision making nor do they compete with her for the children's affection. Mothers have truly become empowered, to the detriment of their children.

We need to remove all the inducements that the current system provides for single motherhood, irrespective of socio-economic standing. Middle and upper class women routinely get awarded child and spousal support far in excess of the need of the children, or what the mothers would be able to earn themselves in the open labour market. This is based on the somewhat skewed reasoning that if the fathers supported the family at a certain level while the family was intact, they are obligated to do so even after the separation/divorce.

The more responsible the man has been, the more severe the penalty, as is illustrated by this Ontario (Canada) Court of Appeal Judgement: Adams .v. Adams. DATE: 20010430. DOCKET: C33776 http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/decisions/2001/april/adams.htm

"... support payments should be $5,000 per month as this amount more properly reflects the STANDARD OF LIFE THAT MRS. ADAMS WAS ACCUSTOMED TO DURING THE MARRIAGE .

The trial judge rejected Dr. Adams’ submissions on the issue that he had made mortgage payments over and above the require amount: … Dr. Adams voluntarily made prepayments on the mortgage and thereby voluntarily accrued a benefit to his wife. … Indeed, Dr. Adams concluded his testimony at the trial on this issue by saying that he agreed with Mrs. Adams’ counsel 'that the primary reason was to provide a roof over the heads of my family'.

"In summary, I do not see any reason to interfere with the trial judge’s decision to set spousal support payments at $5000 monthly. This allocation is not "unreasonable or outside an acceptable range", viewed either in isolation considering Mrs. Adams’ history and current circumstances, or in conjunction with child support payments of $6474 monthly" ... The trial judge also ordered Dr. Adams to maintain sufficient disability and life insurance to fund his child and spousal support obligations."

In the above case, the wife was a qualified nurse, the husband a successful surgeon. The children were over the age where they would need the mother at home as a full-time caregiver. Considering the shortage of nurses, she would have no difficulty in finding employment in her chosen career, a choice that she had made prior to meeting her future husband.

That she greatly benefited from the marriage is abundantly clear. If one compares her standard of living during the marriage, provided by her husband, she clearly would have lost when she decided to separate from him had he not have been ordered to continue to support her at her "accustomed level" though she herself had not contributed to this standard. Yet, he was ordered to "compensate her", though by any logic she would have been the one to compensate him for the breach of promise and the expenses that he had incurred on her behalf. It is hardly conceivable that she would have performed many household duties without paid help. Thus her contribution would have been only to provide companionship and comfort during the marriage.

Unfortunately, this is the rule rather than the exception all across North America and the entire Western World. It is a wonder that fathers and husbands still continue to provide all that they can, often at a tremendous personal sacrifice.

Looking at a different level of social strata: women and teenage girls living in poverty are told that they will be provided welfare, free accommodation and support if they become mothers. If they can pinpoint who the father(s) of their child(ren) is/are he/they will be ordered to pay child support, provided he/they is/are gainfully employed. Thus, the emphasis by the government is to provide education and employment for fathers so that the state can reduce its welfare rolls.

Why should these women try to get out of the ever escalating spiral of poverty, the only lifestyle that they know about, as long as there is someone else who will provide them with the basic necessities? To have a child is to have a meal ticket. To have several children, sired by several men, means to have several meal tickets. That is the only math that we are teaching our girls, no matter what their social standing. Women are the universal victims, incapable of fending for themselves. Or incapable of wanting to fend for themselves.

When you are a teenager living in poverty, you only think of immediate gratification, which is to get off the streets or away from an abusive, often single, parent. Or bored with school. Or unable to decide what to do for the rest of your life. Or ... No matter what, the system will take care of your needs if you become a mother.

The result? Abused children, when the young mothers are unable to cope with parenthood. Knowing nothing better, these children in turn will become abusive parents, and the spiral continues, unabated.

It is a shame that rather than paying tribute to the millions of fathers who have been forced out of the lives of their children whom they valiantly support, the president chose to insult all fathers by lecturing them about their "responsibilities". Will he tell mothers next May that they, too, are responsible?



Eeva Sodhi 

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Fathers' Day 2001

Posted 2001 06 18